Satyavan Savithri was the only movie of that genre directed by PG Vishwambharan, a director known for his ‘populist’ movies. His second outre’ on something that was in the similar veins would come in 2002, in the form of hilarious-but-serious version of his take on Vadakkan Paattukal, starring Vani Vishwanath as Unniyarcha – a clunky dud called Puthooram Puthri Unniyarcha ! Back to Satyavan Savithri. The story is from the Mahabharatha, and was about the unflinching, steadfast love and devotion of a wife for her husband that transcend even the prospect of death, to the point where she manages to bring back her husband, born with a terminal curse, to life, impressing even Yamadharma, the Lord of Death.
Jose Prakash plays Ashwapati, King of Madra and devotee of Savithri, and Kaviyoor Ponnamma is Malavi, the Queen.
In the opening scenes, where Madra celebrates the Royal couple’s 18th Wedding Anniversary and its annexation of the neighboring provinces, there is is this painful reminder by the court jester ( Adoor Bhasi ) to the King about the meaningless existence of the Kingdom without a heir. Shankaradi is the ‘Raj Guru’ to the King, and he looks so adorably cute in that attire !
The joyous King is again overwrought with grief and appeals to the Gods again. The Gods send Sage Narada ( TP Madhavan– his ‘Hari Vom’ always cracks me up), the harbinger of good and bad portents and inform them that they will be certainly blessed with a heir.
The childless couple is at last blessed with a daughter, a heir to the throne, and she is named Savithri. The Raj Guru dotes on the young Princess and takes it upon himself to be her teacher and guide and teach her the ways of the world. The little princess is played by Baby Sumathy who grows into the beautiful Sridevi 🙂
There is this endearing ‘story-telling’ session where the Raj Guru tells little Savithri about how Sage Markandeya outlived his curse of being destined to die on his 18th birthday through his steadfast devotion to Lord Shiva, who, pleased with his devotee even went to the extent of nearly killing The Lord of Death to save young Markandeya. (Reminded me of my childhood in my grandfather’s lap, as he fed parable upon parable from the Bible, in the enthralling manner only grandparents are capable of ! ) Savithri grows up to be spiritually strong, exceptionally beautiful, she is the perfect daughter – so perfect she intimidates young men! Well, we cant be denied a fabulous dance sequence by the young princess, could we, and so the beautiful one dances to Raaga Saagaramey, introducing Sridevi 🙂
Unable to find the perfect suitor by the Royal household, the princess starts on an ‘Swayamvar tour’ through the vast kingdom to personally find the royal partner for life. The entourage sets forth, led by the Chief Minister, Jagadrathan (PK Abraham). And en route, through a forest, she listens to a woodcutter’s song and finds face to face with…ummmm..Satyavan (Kamal Haasan). She is besotted, swept away but has to proceed to the kingdom of Kosala, where there is a big carnival set with the staple competitions, the winner of which will be crowned the best amongst all by the King. Satyavan is also present there, and wins all of them hands down. Savithri is overjoyed. ( Check out Kamal Haasan as the young Satyavan, no wonder Savithri went swooning! 🙂 )
Savitri cuts short her ‘Swayamvar tour’ and is back home, with just one demand – she wants to marry Satyavan! The Royal household goes nuclear, but obviously. The Parents try to make sense but the princess will not take no for an answer.
The King gives in and agrees to meet the parents of the youth and speak to them. The entourage reaches the hermitage of Satyavan. Satyavan’s father is the exiled King Dyumasteva ( Thikkurissy Sukumaran Nair) who is now blind, and stays with his consort played by Aranmula Ponnamma. He is enraged by the fact that the King of Madra also helped his foes in overthrowing him. He would never give his son’s hand in marriage to his enemy’s daughter. Checkmate!
The princess is heartbroken and wows to stay celibate if this Swayamvar is not recognised. Meanwhile Satyavan tries talking sense to his father who is still adamant. A haughty Satyavan along with his friend ( TP Sadan in yet another loud role) hatches a plan to kidnap the princess and get her to the hermitage.
There is this hilarious ‘Horse- Chase’ through the dry hinterlands with a slight hitch – the sampled background of the horse hooves seem to come from a single horse, in a chamber ! The VCD with me of the movie has had a lobotomy done at this point as what comes next makes no sense at all. Because the next scene opens with the Royal family welcoming Sage Narada in the palace, sharing with him the happy news of Savithri’s wedding with Satyavan !
I presume the surgically removed piece must have contained another meeting between the parents, reaching a mutual agreement after accommodations and fixing up the wedding. Sage Narada is hesitant to bless her with the customary benediction of a long and fruitful life. He reveals the truth about the curse at birth that has befallen Satyavan that would make him meet his death on completion of one year of marital bliss. The Royal Family is shattered. Savithri is determined and wants the wedding done. The Royal Family as no choice but to comply.
Post-wedding, Savithri sends another shocker by changing into the frugal attire of the hermit dwellers and leaving with Sathyavan to the forest dwelling . The expected ‘song-and-dance’ comes a bit early in the forest. Savithri has also kept a surprise for the new husband. She informs him of her decision to stay celibate for the year in marriage as she had taken a vow to propitiate Lord Shiva.She also adds the last four days of the year will be spent in severe penance.
The husband is shocked listening to all this in the wedding night itself ( who wouldn’t) but decides to wait for the one year as she has explained. The last days come in sooner than expected ( remember how time flies in the first year of marriage 🙂 )
The aged parents of Satyavan are beyond consolation as Savithri announces her grueling four days in penance, standing on one leg, meditating on Lord Shiva. Four days on one leg ! Realizing where these actions could possibly lead to ( maybe a repeat of the old Marakandeya story), Nature tries her best to turn her away, sending downpours and the rest of the special effects but this is one determine wife.
D Day arrives and Savithri accompanies Satyavan in his daily chore of cutting and collecting firewood. The curse strikes him down in the middle of the it and dies in Savithri’s lap.
King Yamdeva is quick to arrive with his Kaalpaasha ( the celestial lasso that wraps around your ‘Life’ – what a beautiful concept) but he is yet to face a woman hell-bent on getting her way done like Savithri. Savithri has it all figured out, and the clueless Yamaraj is amused at this wife asking him to give back the life of her husband so that they can complete their karma on Earth. Nonplussed, Yamraj is on his way back to his Heaven and Savithri follows him. Ever the gentleman to a lady, Yamraj tells her that he would grant her a boon if she would withdraw from this foolish act of asking back someone’s life.
Savithri asks and her wish is granted, but she doesn’t withdraw and is right beside him ! This happens 3 times and by now Yamraj is annoyed and is ready to grant her a wish the fourth time if she withdraws. But Savithri has already beautifully trapped him with her third wish and he has no alternative but to bring back Satyavan to life to keep his word! Aha. So what were the 3 wishes? That, I guess, demands a separate post and I will post it soon.
All is well that ends well, and they live happily ever after.
So, is there a DVD/VCD of the movie available?
VCD, my friend, VCD ! I got mine from here.